More Bad News on the Motherhood Penalty

A new study that evaluates the motherhood penalty, or the average wages women lose over their career after they become mothers, reveals that low-income lose again and women who enjoy family friendly benefits aren’t usually mothers. Via today’s New York Times Economix blog:

In a startling new look at the “motherhood penalty,” however, two sociologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Michelle J. Budig and Melissa J. Hodges, show that mothers with lower earnings suffer the biggest percentage loss in hourly wages…Women with lower earnings are more likely to cycle in and out of jobs, forced to quit if child-care arrangements fall through or they experience a family health crisis. This employment instability tends to lower their hourly wages and may also lead employers to be wary of hiring them.

And for high-earning women:

One cruel aspect of policies in this country is that, as Professor Budig and Ms. Hodges put it, “high-earning childless women hold the most family-friendly jobs” — those with paid family leaves, sick days and vacation time…These “supermoms” are often in super jobs (and are able to hire super nannies). The other 95 percent of mothers pay a penalty that increases their economic vulnerability.

The article aptly notes that our very own Ann Friedman has previously pointed out that a vote for Palin’s Mama Grizzlies is a vote against family-friendly policies. But despite the ousting of democratic elected officials, I am still optimistic that help is on the way. Late last week there was a lot of buzz on the Internets reminding folks about the $50 million State Paid Leave Fund. This policy would focus on getting family leave in the hands of middle-class and low-income families that need it, not just high-earning families. Another thing to be excited about is last week’s release of  the Jobs and Economic Security for America’s Women Report. The executive summary lays out nicely some of the economic reinforcements that the Obama Administration has aimed at low-income. I am hopeful that these research efforts will ensure that the plight of low-income women will remain in policy discourses and that the result will ultimately be more resources, more opportunities and most of all, less discrimination.

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